Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Kristen Lamb, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreat, burnout, reasons to rest, investing in your writing career, benefits of a writing retreat

Careening toward a holiday weekend here in the States and…if I could ONLY rest. I need it, but there is so much to DO! *silent scream*

Rest is crucial, yet is often undervalued, mocked and even punished in modern culture. Regardless of profession, the evidence is undeniable that our brains need a break. Taking time off and—GASP—even having fun pays off in major ways. If you’re too busy to take time off? Then odds are you need more rest.

I am truly honored to be presenting for the Cruising Writers’ Retreat…and part of me is freaking out because I’ve always had a tough time resting and having fun.

How can you have fun when all the LAUNDRY is not finished?

This is likely why I was an early bloomer and got Shingles when I was forty. Hey, I am a work in progress, too. Yet, having been someone who’s hit the WALL (more than once, since I’m a Type A overachiever), I thought I’d take time to address the chronically busy.

Many of us see an ad for a writing retreat, let alone one on a CRUISE and recoil. Oh, the cost, and the time and I have so much to DO! You just don’t get it. Such a frivolity, I can’t…

*hangs head between knees*

Yes, you can. I can. This is not a frivolity, it’s an investment. Here is why. Vacations cost money, but burnout can cost us far more than cash…

Beating Burnout 

Kristen Lamb, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreat, burnout, reasons to rest, investing in your writing career, benefits of a writing retreat

Burnout is real. Burnout is that expanse beyond stress. When we are stressed we still believe we can ‘get things under control.’ We still believe we can win at this game of Life Whack-A-Mole and ADD IN Publishing Whack-A-Mole! #Genius #OrNot

Burnout happens for a number of reasons.

Maybe we haven’t learned how to set effective boundaries. Instead of us being in charge of our day, everyone else wants a piece of our time. We free up an hour here, then almost immediately fill it with some new activity. Our internal resources (energy, passion, and will) steadily become stretched beyond capacity until…SNAP.

We are, in effect, red-lining our engine. Like a car, it IS possible to push into and past the red line…but only for so long. Anything pushed for long periods of time beyond designed capacities will eventually fail.

An engine burns up. Humans burn OUT.

Without proper rest, we tip past that often invisible line into a dangerous area. Unlike being in a state of stress where we still care, we still believe if we just worked harder, and where we still have hope, burnout is a dead zone. This is a place of apathy.

Stress impacts our body and mind, but burnout is a malaise of the soul.

This is when we become despondent, angry, hopeless, and see no point to what we’re doing. As authors, it’s easy to get to this point (where most give up). We often still have to work a day job, take care of family responsibilities, tend general ‘adulting.’ Some of us might be in the role of caregiver for elderly or ill parents.

When we finish ALL THIS…then we write.

Not only do we need to write, but there’s social media, branding, platform, newsletters, marketing, algorithms, guest posts, and promotion and pretty soon we fly off Hell’s Hamster Wheel and CRASH.

Change Your Space

Kristen Lamb, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreat, burnout, reasons to rest, investing in your writing career, benefits of a writing retreat

It seems so simple. Rest more. Deep down we KNOW we’re being foolish by never letting up on the gas pedal. Can’t we just learn to invoke the NO? Why do we promise to set boundaries, only to one day wake up with nothing left?

All we can think about is running away from home…but that would take too much energy. Energy we don’t have. Besides, we would have to leave our blanket fort.

The reason this happens is we lose perspective. We get so caught in the routine of life that, when small tasks keep piling on, we don’t notice the additional heat.

It’s like the slow-boiling frog sitting there as the temperature notches up ever so slowly. We don’t even realize anything is amiss, that we need to JUMP. Because this heat is building incrementally, we’re utterly unaware we’re being boiled alive.

Kristen Lamb, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreat, burnout, reasons to rest, investing in your writing career, benefits of a writing retreat

Changing location does wonders for combatting burnout. It obviously can give us the much-needed rest. Additionally, once we step out of the everyday, we gain perspective.

A fresh vantage point offers us renewed clarity on exactly how much garbage is crammed into our day. What can GO? Which tasks can be delegated? Why are we leaving our writing for last (if there is any time left)?

Also, changing location allows the brain time to take all the data it has collected (television, books, ideas, conversations, dreams) and make these loose connections come TOGETHER. This is the time that novel might all come together. It might be the place where we finally SEE what we’ve been doing wrong (or right) all along!

Some of the greatest revelations in history happened during a BREAK. Newton’s sudden epiphany about gravity occurred while out on a leisurely walk, NOT when he was in his study cramming more notes and math into his brain.

Now, it didn’t ALL come to him on that walk. The information was in his head. It took getting away for his brain to be able to SHOW him the final BIG PICTURE.

Broaden Your World

Kristen Lamb, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreat, burnout, reasons to rest, investing in your writing career, benefits of a writing retreat

Again, a retreat like this is an investment in YOU and your art and your future. It’s ensuring your imagination’s proper development.

As an analogy, what have we learned about working the same muscles over and over? Eventually, one ends up with what is known as a ‘repetitive work injury.’ Maybe the same repeated motion tears out a rotator cuff or we develop carpal tunnel or crippling tendonitis.

In short, the same over and over can serve up some debilitating consequences. We need to rest certain muscle groups.

When at the gym we don’t use only one machine, work only one muscle group. If we do, we’re asking for a lot of pain in the future. The ideal goal for optimal fitness is to cross-train. We want to challenge our body in different ways, on different planes, from different angles, right? We also need days off. Rest days where the body can recuperate.

Kristen Lamb, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreat, burnout, reasons to rest, investing in your writing career, benefits of a writing retreat

The same goes for our imagination and mind. If we’ve only ever experienced one sort of life, our ability to empathize, to get into the heads of other characters, to be able to describe other landscapes, etc. can only develop to a certain level (eventually it will become stunted).

Sure, we can use books and movies to help, much like I can use a machine to mimic climbing a mountain.

But is the mountain climbing machine the same as going and climbing an actual mountain? On the machine, it is all safe and controlled and only challenges a limited range of what I can do.

On a mountain, I must contend with altitude, wind, weather, terrain that might suddenly be GONE (landslide) and be able to keep pressing. Tethered to a cliff, I must face terror, exhaustion, doubt…the urge to PEE.

Also? Climbing a REAL mountain comes with great stories, experiences, pictures, and actual bragging rights.

Imagination and creativity are the same. YES, please read. I can always tell writers who not only don’t read the genre they want to sell books in, but can really spot those who don’t read at ALL. But second-hand experience only develops our minds so much. Virtual can only go so far.

Networking (Yeah, Get Out More)

Kristen Lamb, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreat, burnout, reasons to rest, investing in your writing career, benefits of a writing retreat

One of the greatest advantages we can gain from a conference, a retreat or even a cruise retreat is that we will make friends and connections in person. Also, these connections are of a different caliber (bear with me). Anyone can hop on-line for free and claim they take their writing careers seriously. Maybe they do.

I know we all start somewhere. When I started writing, I’d lost everything and had to live with my disabled mother. We were broke, eating Ramen and praying the lights wouldn’t be shut off.

But at least we had each other 🙂 …

Anyway, joining a local writing critique group was my first step in networking. I put skin in the game. It cost me $35 a year and time (attendance). Eventually, though, I plateaued. I kept getting rejected and had no idea how to fix my novel. Books only taught so much.

It wasn’t until I scraped up enough money for my first writing conference that I experienced my first GIANT leap ahead.

The reason was because a) the conference had experts I had no in-person access to otherwise and b) fellow attendees took their futures seriously enough to put out money and invest in success. This weeded out a lot of the hobbyists I’d been surrounded by for years.

Hobbyists could barely be bothered to attend a meeting for a critique group that cost less than $6 a month. Not everyone in the group was dead broke like I was. They simply didn’t take their writing seriously enough to sacrifice financially to make it to the next level.

I know some folks do face the financial challenge, but others can find money for everyone else’s dream but are too scared or too guilty to do the same for their own. Why are other’s wants, needs and dreams more worthy? IS it necessary for us to always be last…you, know, if anything is left over.

I’ve been both. I’m crazy generous with those I care about but spend money on myself? Are you crazy?

And that is how I ended up burned out, hiding in a blanket fort.

Enjoy Returns on Rest

Kristen Lamb, Cruising Writers, Cruising Writers Retreat, burnout, reasons to rest, investing in your writing career, benefits of a writing retreat

Maybe y’all have heard of ROI (Return on Investment). This is about RoR (Return on Rest). By attending a conference, I got away, had fun, made friends, broadened my world and recharged. Yet, this ‘vacation’ was far more than the mental, emotional and professional rest I needed.

I made connections with TRUE professionals (NYT & USA Today best-selling authors, NYC literary agents, NYC editors, publicists, experts) who showed me how ‘publishing’ really worked. They shortened my learning curve by pointing me to better resources and also demolishing a lot of my ‘fantasies.’

That part kinda sucked, but operating from truth is better than being stuck in a delusion.

Rest (coupled with learning) helped me recalibrate my expectations (I.e. I was not going to land an agent and a three-book million-dollar deal with my first query letter).

Sorry if I just bummed any of y’all out. Bummed me out for sure.

What is Your TIME Worth?

For those who join us in October, I promise to shorten your learning curve by a decade. How much of ten years of ineffectiveness going to cost? Count the cost of writing books you can’t seem to finish?

Or what about building a brand or platform the wrong way and having to tear down and or start over? It happens all the time.

There is a LOT of misinformation about what a brand and platform IS and how and where to build one. I make all this terrifying stuff fun, simple and effective. You guys are writers, not high-pressure salespeople and mega-marketers and I have ZERO interest in training you how to be one.

Namely, because that crap doesn’t work. So give it a rest 😉 .

My blog gets 1.1 million hits a month, about a half a million unique visits a year, and I have over 50,000 dedicated subscribers (suffice to say maybe I know a little). I’ve never automated, never used a newsletter, and pretty much only have time for some goofing off on Facebook.

Ads, gimmicks, and high-pressure promotional campaigns didn’t build this number. Common sense and FUN built it. Maybe I’ll add in a newsletter or some ads and promotion to enhance what I already have, but I chose to build my brand/platform on relationships and authentic connections. Those last a LOT longer than the latest fads.

Technology changes. People don’t. Don’t believe me? Read Shakespeare. Go look up your ex on Facebook.

There, proved my point.

REST, ALREADY!

For many, I know suggesting a cruise ranks along with me suggesting you indulge in eating a plate of hot wings coated in gold dust while relaxing in a Learjet. Trust me, I get it. A cruise seems way too out of reach, and maybe it is (for now.)

When I was broke and struggling, mastering couponing more than writing, I learned to call this my meantime.

What was true at the moment didn’t mean it was true forever. Back then, going hiking for a day or walking my dogs in a nice park were my forms of rest.  And even then, resting was hard (perhaps even more so). I was THIRTY-FOUR, living with my MOTHER and needed to WORK and on and on…and guess what?

I burned out then, too.

For others, all the money you might be tempted to throw into gimmicky nonsense that won’t work (or at least not for long)? Use that moolah for the cruise. I’d love a chance to meet you.

We can hang out, ask the staff how many bodies can fit in the dessert cooler and how long until anyone would notice the smell…then learn what a cruise ship BRIG looks like!

On second thought, the pool looks nice.

Regardless, people are like computers. Sometimes, all they need to work properly is to UNPLUG!

Trust me, email will be there when you get back.

What are your thoughts?

Do you have a hard time resting? Does the idea of a vacation give you apoplexy? It still does this to me. In fact, those who go on the cruise might need to make sure I don’t end up helping fold towels or bussing tables. Sigh. Do you find it easy to lavish on others, but you’re always dead last? And being last, do you find ‘The List’ repopulates before you get ‘your turn’?

I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU!

What do you WIN? For the month of MAY, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also NOW OFFERING MORE CLASSES PLUS ON DEMAND…

Retelling Myths & Fairytales

Instructor: USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds
Price: $65 USD Standard (Cool Upgrades Available)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY May 25th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

Myths and fairytales are as fundamental to human existence as communication itself. We grow up hearing these stories, being formed by them, and often rebelling against them.

One of the hottest trends in publishing right now is bringing these stories back and giving them new life with creative interpretations and retellings.

Done right, a retelling can capture the public imagination, give us new insights into our society and ourselves, and sweep us away to a time and place where everything, including justice and happy endings, is possible. Get your spot today! HERE.

The Yarn Behind the Book: Backstory

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $55.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Friday, June 1, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

Behind every good book is an entire story that happens before the reader ever opens to page one. This is the backstory, and done right, it is what sets the stage, provides clues and cues, and rescues you from writer’s block.

A good backstory will help with logic and consistency in the plot, developing complex motivations for characters, and sorting out exactly what needs to happen going forward as you either plot or pants your way to the end.

This class will cover the following topics – and much more:

  • The elements of a backstory;
  • How to take your current plot idea and work backwards into a backstory;
  • Integrating character profiles and the backstory;
  • How the backstory relates to the logline and synopsis;
  • Using the backstory to dig yourself out of corners and shake off writer’s block;
  • Why a backstory is crucial to writing a series.

SIGN UP HERE!

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

About the Instructor:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in the Boston area with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking, running, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

On Demand Training!

Ready for Book Beast Mode? I Live to Serve…Up Some TRAINING!

For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend:

ON DEMAND Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. 

Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .

The Art of Character is also now available for ON DEMAND.

And if you’re ready for BOOK BEAST MODE and like saving some cash, you can get BOTH Plot Boss and Art of Character in the…

Story Boss Bundle (ON DEMAND).

Almost FIVE HOURS with me, in your home…lecturing you. It’ll be FUN! 

I also hope you’ll pick up a copy of my debut novel The Devil’s Dance.

The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, Author Kristen Lamb, Kristen Lamb novel, Kristen Lamb mystery-thriller, Romi Lachlan

We’ve likely all heard the phrase, The truth shall set you free. Truth is critical in all areas of life, yet we’re often afraid—okay, terrified—of truth. It’s dismally human to eschew truth because truth often hurts.

A lot.

Truth and pain are inseparable, which is why great authors (or great people in general) are probably masochists.

What separates the amateur from the professional is the person’s willingness to face truth and embrace pain. If we think about it, authentic triumph always follows on the heels of pain.

Ask anyone who’s finished a marathon, completed an advanced degree, paid off a mountain of debt, or wriggled into max-control Spanx without losing consciousness….

Ask your mother about pain. Well, maybe not…

Ironically, the more pain involved, the greater the victory on the other side. Yet, how many of us long for victory…just without all that ‘pain’ stuff?

Truth increases self-awareness. It makes us face aspects of our character we’d rather hide in the bathtub with the piles of dirty laundry.

Don’t you judge me O_o ….

Today, I’m going to toss down some truth bombs. I’d love to say that I knew this stuff all along and am some mystic sage imbued with super powers.

But that would totally be a LIE (thus, likely unhelpful).

Truth About Time

Kristen Lamb, truth, fear, habits self-awareness, motivation, facing our fears, writing afraid

One phrase I recommend banishing from your lexicon: If I could only find the time. Here’s the deal, we don’t find time, we make time. Time isn’t hiding in the couch cushions with the remote control.

Time isn’t wandering around crying until mall security hands it a balloon. It isn’t buried in the woods like some stash from a bank robbery. There is no map, GPS, or time-sniffing dogs to help locate time because time isn’t lost.

It’s right there asking us all, ‘Hey, buddy, what would you like us to do today?’

We choose. If we hope to find any success in life we must realize we are ultimately responsible. Everything else is an excuse. Why so many of us feel guilty that we haven’t done X, Y, and Z is we know we could have.

We simply chose NOT to.

*winces*

I know, but don’t worry. It’s cool…

We’re All Human Here (Mostly)

What fascinates me is how closely great stories mimic great lives. This is why humans have loved great stories from the invention of fire until today.

Here’s the thing, though. No one likes a ‘story’ about a character whisked along passively caught in the riptide of bad stuff happening. Great stories involve choices, forks in the road, decisions…tough decisions.

Decisions we KNOW we could never make…so we read about/admire OTHER people who do 😀 .

We admire people who’ve made the brutal choices, choices involving time, effort, focus. This is why athletes, activists, authors, innovators, scientists, entertainers, and people with immaculate closets fascinate us.

As writers, we of all people should appreciate the power of words. When we keep espousing time ‘can be found,’ it’s a self-delusion, a cushion from reality.

Truth is, life is suffering. There is no way to escape suffering, but we can choose our suffering. If we are going to suffer anyway, why not be in control?

Truth About Talent

Kristen Lamb, truth, fear, habits self-awareness, motivation, facing our fears, writing afraid

I wrote a post a while back asking the question all writers ask (or should). Do some people simply lack the talent to become authors? I would say talent is highly overrated. This goes back to our overall theme of truth, time and suffering. When I began blogging over a decade ago, I was clueless. There were so many bloggers who were better than me, BIGGER than me.

OMG, if I could ONE DAY get five-hundred unique visits, I would, like totally DIE.

***Probably good I didn’t.

When I decided to blog for real, I was thrilled when I got my first comment—A FAN!

I was so excited, I even commented back to my new fan knowing one day we would be best friends and maybe…meet in person! Squeeeee!

Of everyone who said I was an idiot for becoming a writer this one lone angel saw what no one else did (other than me and my mom).

This commenter found me and believed…in…me.

*moment of reverent silence*

My commenter’s name was *deep breath*…Akismet.

Odd name. Is that Russian, Albanian, Indian?

I ACTUALLY THOUGHT THIS!

Of course, when Akismet was so rude as to not reply I shrugged it off. Imagine my mortification when I learned Akismet was WordPress’s spam filter, and I’d tried to befriend an automated message.

And also been hurt when I was ghosted by an automated message.

I CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP, PEOPLE!

Truth About Blogging

Kristen Lamb, truth, fear, habits self-awareness, motivation, facing our fears, writing afraid

The truth is? I was a raging idiot (if you haven’t already figured that out). Like one of those people who is so stupid they can’t see HOW stupid they really ARE? Yep…me. With writing, blogging…life.

I was a raging idiot because I began as an unteachable know-it-all. It was only through a lot of failure and stupidity (like trash-talking my ‘fake friend’ Akismet) that I eventually saw myself for who/what I truly was.

And it stung…a lot.

When I finally faced my true character (or lack thereof), that’s when my life started making authentic progress. I began blogging for the wrong reasons (affirmation of how AMAZING I was), but found something vastly different.

See, I’d been told my entire life I had talent, that I was a fantastic writer, and maybe that was true.

Problem was, I had the skin of a grape and no self-discipline. When everything wasn’t immediately stars and fame and unicorn hugs…I quit. I was lazy, self-absorbed, insecure and wanted to be a writer for all the wrong reasons—a desire for affirmation, approval, fame, glory, and more approval.

Did I mention needing approval? That’s okay, right?

Once these truths slapped me in the face like a school of dead fish, I had some tough choices to make. Where would I dedicate my TIME? Would I give up or press on? If no one ever read my blog, would I be okay with that?

I could continue choosing the pain of never finishing anything I started, OR I could push through and see what might be on the other side of that pain.

Initially, I blogged for fame. Then, I changed my reason and blogged to improve my character. Blogging trained me to hold myself to self-imposed deadlines. No one was going to arrive and toss me in ‘blogger jail’ if I failed to post. This helped me overcome perfectionism and SHIP.

Since I had no fans, if I didn’t post, the only one I’d be letting down was myself.

The Truth About Myself

Kristen Lamb, truth, fear, habits self-awareness, motivation, facing our fears, writing afraid

As mentioned (a lot), I was addicted to approval. Could I keep posting when there was no chorus to sing my praises? Then, once people actually did begin reading, could I stick to my guns and keep blogging despite a long line of people telling me I was a hack, poseur, amateur, idiot, etc.?

I was addicted to perfection, always revising, redoing, tweaking. Blogging taught me to let it GO. Perfect is the enemy of the finished. Thus, when feedback inevitably slammed into me like a boomerang I’d forgotten I’d thrown, I saw stars (not the nice ones).

Initially, my voice was too preachy, so I lightened up. Followers responded far more favorably to my humorous side. Once I gained more confidence, I eventually let the comedy FLY! It was fantastic and fun and…

#Oops

Ah, but then my jokes got SO good, readers didn’t realize I WAS joking…which I found out when I unintentionally started a panic.

When G+ launched, I wrote a hysterically funny parody MOCKING Facebook for copying Twitter. I say this humbly.

*gets cramp patting self on back*

Anyway, I blogged about Facebook’s new function Twit+ (a term I TOTALLY MADE UP )…and fielded emails for weeks from hysterical writers who couldn’t locate the Twit+ function on Facebook.

Kristen Lamb, truth, fear, habits self-awareness, motivation, facing our fears, writing afraid

SHE TOOK IT TOO FAR!

Yes…yes I did. And I eased back on the throttle. But, blogging allowed me to hone my skills and my voice. By trial, error, and unwittingly starting a digital stampede—or ten—I learned more by DOING in a year than decades of ‘thinking about doing.’

Truth Revealed

Kristen Lamb, truth, fear, habits self-awareness, motivation, facing our fears, writing afraid

When we choose our suffering and then dedicate TIME to that endeavor, eventually this reveals truth. The more ‘novels’ I wrote (and failed to finish), the more it became seriously clear I needed to do more studying.

With every blog, I gained progressively thicker skin and increased confidence. I learned that what had been true about me in 2004 was no longer true by 2010 and certainly isn’t true here in 2018.

Over a decade later, most of the bloggers I aspired to be ‘one day’…have quit. The critics who blasted me about the future of publishing, ‘experts’ who called me lots of names for suggesting writers needed a platform and brand? Most are no longer around.

The trolls who blasted me for calling out the exposure dollar SCAM, who rallied their platforms to flame me when I suggested writers needed to be PAID? They’re now…

…oddly quiet.

😉

Why is La Cucaracha playing in my head? Go ahead, throw a shoe at me! I’ll be waiting for you in it in the morning *evil laugh* Oh, and I licked half your Cheetos while you were sleeping. Which half? I’ll never tell.

MUA HA HA HA HA *coughs*

Sally forth.

Truth About Motivation

Kristen Lamb, truth, fear, habits self-awareness, motivation, facing our fears, writing afraid

Motivation is overrated and hangs out with ‘Talent’ in dark alleys. They sell dime bags of ‘Instant Happiness,’ ‘Noble Excuses’ along with sweet chasers of ‘Do It Later’ shots.

There’s a lot about being a writer (and blogger) that’s a TON of fun, but a lot of it seriously sucks. That’s life. Show me a job that is all awesome all the time and I will lovingly ask you to stop dropping acid.

Often our ‘lack of motivation’ is we’re afraid.

Maybe our fears are founded. I have no clue how to plot and am hoping no one notices.

Perhaps they’re a lie. Your book is awesome and will never be perfect so STOP MESSING WITH IT AND SHIP!

Sometimes, we just gotta do it afraid. Fear is a feeling and feelings LIE.

Our entire consumer culture rests on the fulcrum of ‘feelings.’ We’re trained to live by emotion. Why? Because emotion makes us stupid and stupid people buy more stuff they don’t need and probably can’t afford.

While the advertisers are employing feelings to pick our pockets, we can easily catch a nasty case Emo by Osmosis.

I just don’t feel like writing today.

Creatives get away with this ‘feeling’ excuse more easily than, say, brain surgeons, firefighters or Navy S.E.A.L.s…which is why it’s more likely to become a bad habit for us.

Feelings rarely have much to do with truth. They are also crazy fickle and, in an act of awe-inspiring irony, show up to work when they feel like it.

Motivation, enthusiasm, exultation are fabulous feelings. But the REASON they FEEL fabulous is because these feelings are RARE. They’re the creative endorphins only earned by working super hard.

Unless we artificially create these ‘feelings’ with Pixie Sticks, cocaine, or a steady diet of pricey self-help retreats telling us we’re special?

Tears, sweat and blood, baby 😉  .

Motivation is the result of starting. Start when you don’t feel like it and eventually, feelings WILL catch up because feelings are attention whores who hate being left out.

Don’t argue. It’s science.

What Are Your Thoughts?

I love hearing from you!

Are you not finishing that novel because you’re afraid you’re really terrible? Or maybe actually awesome? Do you make excuses for why you can’t write or blog or train circus ferrets? Have you taken time to examine those excuses? What they might be telling you?

Have you ever set out to accomplish something and were shocked at the truths about yourself (or others) you failed to see? Do you find ‘good reasons’ why you can’t blog, write, finish that novel?

Hey, it is OKAY. We all struggle. We learn by DOING and DOING IT AFRAID.

In fact, to help you guys, I am running the ‘Write Stuff’ DO IT AFRAID Special, where I do a detailed line and content edit on your first 20 pages. ONLY TEN SLOTS AVAILABLE.

What do you do well? What’s falling flat? Are you nailing the hook? Are there ways I can help your story hook DEEPER?

Treat yourself! I don’t bite…..that hard *whistles innocently*. I can tell you from experience is it WAY better to have someone who cares about your work and is vested in you to critique your work and make it the best it can be.

As for comments…

What do you WIN? For the month of MAY, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also NOW OFFERING MORE CLASSES PLUS ON DEMAND…

Retelling Myths & Fairytales

Instructor: USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds
Price: $65 USD Standard (Cool Upgrades Available)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY May 25th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

Myths and fairytales are as fundamental to human existence as communication itself. We grow up hearing these stories, being formed by them, and often rebelling against them.

One of the hottest trends in publishing right now is bringing these stories back and giving them new life with creative interpretations and retellings.

Done right, a retelling can capture the public imagination, give us new insights into our society and ourselves, and sweep us away to a time and place where everything, including justice and happy endings, is possible. Get your spot today! HERE.

The Yarn Behind the Book: Backstory

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $55.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Friday, June 8th, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

Behind every good book is an entire story that happens before the reader ever opens to page one. This is the backstory, and done right, it is what sets the stage, provides clues and cues, and rescues you from writer’s block.

A good backstory will help with logic and consistency in the plot, developing complex motivations for characters, and sorting out exactly what needs to happen going forward as you either plot or pants your way to the end.

This class will cover the following topics – and much more:

  • The elements of a backstory;
  • How to take your current plot idea and work backwards into a backstory;
  • Integrating character profiles and the backstory;
  • How the backstory relates to the logline and synopsis;
  • Using the backstory to dig yourself out of corners and shake off writer’s block;
  • Why a backstory is crucial to writing a series.

SIGN UP HERE!

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

About the Instructor:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in the Boston area with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking, running, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

On Demand Training!

Ready for Book Beast Mode? I Live to Serve…Up Some TRAINING!

For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend:

ON DEMAND Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. 

Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .

The Art of Character is also now available for ON DEMAND.

And if you’re ready for BOOK BEAST MODE and like saving some cash, you can get BOTH Plot Boss and Art of Character in the…

Story Boss Bundle (ON DEMAND).

Almost FIVE HOURS with me, in your home…lecturing you. It’ll be FUN! 

I also hope you’ll pick up a copy of my debut novel The Devil’s Dance.

The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, Author Kristen Lamb, Kristen Lamb novel, Kristen Lamb mystery-thriller, Romi Lachlan

Running, marathon, heartbreak hill, Boston marathon, writing, Curse

It’s Cait Reynolds blog time, which, as you know, is probably both a blessing and a curse. Haven’t blogged for a while but, it’s like the old Country & Western song: How Can I Miss You if You Won’t Go Away? But yes, I’m back which might be a blessing or a curse.

Speaking of curses, that’s what I’m here to talk about today.

Writers tend to be a superstitious bunch, much like runners. Even the most skeptical among us can tell when the stars are not aligned on a writing day. Runners can feel when their bodies just aren’t hitting on all cylinders.

From drinking the same tea while writing to wearing lucky socks for race day, many of us can’t help but look for and cling to signs/omens/Tarot readings for encouragement.

Because we ALL need encouragement.

But, sometimes, there comes a moment when it feels like all the forces of nature are against us. No amount of stretching our prose or IT bands seems to make any difference. It’s positively spooky how blocked we get.

Now, living in Boston and being both a runner and a Red Sox fan, I consider myself something of an expert in curses. I mean, it took Bruce Springsteen’s rock n’ roll exorcism during his concert at Fenway Park to lift the curse of the Bambino…and that year, we finally won the World Series.

You can’t tell me that ish doesn’t work.

Running, marathon, heartbreak hill, Boston marathon, writing, Curse
Do you know how hard it was to find funny Boston memes without the f-bomb for this post? DO YOU?!! DO YOU F*$#@*&* APPRECIATE WHAT I DO FOR YOU????!!!!

I also happen to be descended from a long line of eerily prescient/omniscient/ohnoshedidn’t Slavic women who can look right into your soul and see you didn’t wash your hands after using the public restroom.

Yeah. I know my curses.

Now, settle in, my loves. Ignore the goat demon in the corner. He’s harmless. Mostly. Oh, and careful with the salt circle. Summoning with a smudged salt circle can be…messy.

29 and Feeling Fine

writing tips, how to write a novel, Boston Marathon, Boston Red Sox, writing tips, curse, Cait Reynolds, Heartbreak Hill, writing success

Like all curses, the Mile 25 Curse begins with the seduction of possibility, invincibility, and a good pair of running shoes.

We get the Big Idea. Get all excited, develop characters, settings, plot, outlines. When we jump in, it’s both feet first and hit the ground running like we are our very own NaNoWriMo on meth.

The words are flowing. It’s easy. Effortless. This time…this time is gonna be different. We’re going to ride that wave of effortless all the way through to THE END. It’s just gonna flow.

It’s like that first run, when we blast our way through 1.5 miles at a blistering 14:06/mi pace. Hardcore, man.

We blow through the first 29,000-30,000 words of a full-length novel in record time. And it’s good work. Some of our best. We’re in it to win it, and this is rocking!

We’ve reached the end of Act I, and now, our characters are on their way. Only, the yellow brick road turns out to be paved with the broken backs of melting Peeps, and now, we’re running on a road that’s slow, sticky, and somewhat distressing.

Welcome to HELL…or Act II. Too many writers mistakenly believe writing a novel is a sprint or a fun run. No, it’s a marathon that requires training, preparations, patience and a very high pain tolerance.

Because all novelists will eventually hit…

The Heartbreak Hill of the WIP

But hey, we’ve got a plan. We’ve got an outline. The fresh idealism of the first 30,000 words has worn off, but we kinda knew this was going to happen. We had hoped it wouldn’t. But, it did. Just like we wish training for a 10k simply felt like training for two 5ks…but it’s sooo not.

So, it’s not totally shocking, and while it may take a few days to resign ourselves to the fact Act II will always be a slower, harder slog, we’re ready to soldier on.

The first stirrings of real unease might pop up around 40,000-45,000 words. We feel a little proud we’ve gotten this far. That’s a lot of words, probably around a halfway point for the whole book.

It’s also the Heartbreak Hill of our story.

Heartbreak Hill is the cruelest mile of the Boston Marathon. It’s a steady 3.3% incline for more than 2 km. Now, that may not seem like much, but remember, runners have already done 20.6 miles. There have been shorter, steeper climbs and longer, quad-punishing downhills.

Boston Marathon sign at Heartbreak Hill

Runners are caked in salt, blood, and sticky dried Gatorade. It could be beating down icy rain or unseasonably hot. Healed injuries are tweaking, threatening to unravel. The playlist is failing to inspire. Even the kisses and oranges from the Wellesley College girls (both offered freely to all) can’t quite distract from the pain.

All the cowbell in the world can’t help you now.

2014 Boston Marathon: the famous Wellesley kissing line.
Wellesley College student Lauren Dow solicited and RECEIVED kisses from the passing runners. Section: Sports, Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Writers and runners slow and walk a few steps, cry a little, then grit their teeth and get back in the game. Because it’s only 5.6 miles or 45,000 words to the finish line. This is the hardest test of what we are made of. Can we ENDURE?

We got this….*weeps*

The Mile 25 Curse

I used to live right at mile 25 of the Boston Marathon, which is just before Kenmore Square (mile 25.2), where the crowds really start going wild. From Kenmore, it’s just one more mile to the finish line.

But there’s one last nasty surprise for runners. To get to Kenmore Square, they have to run over the I-90 overpass, a mini-Heartbreak Hill. It’s the psych-out sucker punch. CURSE it ALL!

Boston Marathon sign

For writers, that moment of despair generally comes at the end of Act II, or about 60,000 words-ish. It’s a sudden existential inadequacy and dread:

Oh-my-God-this-is-the-worst-stuff-I’ve-ever-written-what-was-I-thinking-is-it-too-late-to-take-up-Olympic-curling-as-a-career-instead-who-would-want-to-read-this-crap-I-suck-as-a-writer-I-should-just-go-crawl-in-a-hole-and-die.

You know…something like that.

Every writer faces a Mile 25 Curse moment. There are no talismans to protect us against it, no surefire cures. We are alone and unprepared to face our demons. Every. Single. Time.

The Mile 25 Curse can make us abandon our WIP to chase fluffy plot bunnies that PROMISE to be easier to write and give us instant fame, fortune, and a lifetime supply of Diet Coke.

The curse doesn’t care if our WIP is any good. It doesn’t care about our dreams. It has one goal: to trip us up before the finish line.

There are runners who collapse at mile 25 in the Boston Marathon, physically and mentally pushed beyond their limit. There are also the runners who slow to a walk as they digest the grim reality of one last hill. You can see them weighing the options in their heads. Should I just give up and walk the rest of the way? Do I have it in me?

How badly do I want this?

They take a deep breath…and resume running, even if it’s merely a limping jog. No way they’ve come this far to just give up.

So, they just keep running.

The Finish Line

And, really, that’s what I’m trying to tell you today. Keep pressing. Mile 25 is a finite thing. It is one mile…or 5,280 ft….or 1,500 steps, and each step brings you that much closer to the finish line.

Spencer the Boston Marathon dog will cheer you on!

When we are at the end of Act II, there isn’t that much further to go. It’s another 15,000-20,000 words at most for Act III. We know how the story is going to end (or should) and what needs to happen. There’s no more slogging through the confusing, mushy bits we’re not sure of in Act II.

This is a final sprint for the FINISH!

A marathon is about crossing the finish line. It isn’t about sashaying, moon-walking, or pronking across it. How we cross doesn’t matter. We simply have to cross it, limping, bloody, and shaking from way too much caffeine after writing the worst 12,000 words of our lives.

Nobody looks good crossing the finish line of a race. Even the 100-meter dash–sure, it’s not far enough that hair and makeup get mussed, but there’s the awkward ‘runner face’ everyone makes, which is halfway between the putting-on-mascara face and the O-face.

Not even Kenyans look their best at a finish line.

I have yet to finish a book and wake up the next morning looking like a million dollars. It’s more that I look like a reject extra for The Walking Dead. I probably smell like a reject extra from The Walking Dead, too, because who has time to shower when we’re 4,000 from the finish line?

The point is, it doesn’t matter if you are sweaty, blotchy, puffy, a drippy mess from allergies, or prone to random hysterical laughter by the time you finish your book. YOU FINISHED.

And as a fellow writer and perhaps a fellow runner…I’ll be there to cheer you on!

Coach Cait is ready! (Post-run on a GOOD day)

***

Thank You CAIT!

Kristen here. If anyone ever sees me running? RUN FOR YOUR $%#@#$% LIFE! Because there is something with teeth or a chainsaw behind me.

But, whether we are runners or not, writing is an endurance sport. I choose motherhood, grappling in Jiu Jitsu, and time with my mother to train my endurance. It helps 🙂 .

***Scroll down for new classes from Cait and for On Demand classes for hardcore storytelling training from MOI!

What Are Your Thoughts?

I love hearing from you!

Do you find yourself starting and never finishing? Is this from lack of planning? Failing to fully prepare? Not enough training? Maybe underestimating HOW FREAKING HARD writing a novel ACTUALLY is?

Are you being too hard on yourself? A commenter last time was really down she couldn’t finish her FIRST ‘novel.’ Hell, it took me no less than FIFTEEN ‘novels’ before I finished. That whole ‘endurance training thing’ 😉 .

What do you WIN? For the month of MAY, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also NOW OFFERING MORE CLASSES PLUS ON DEMAND…

Retelling Myths & Fairytales

Instructor: USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds
Price: $65 USD Standard (Cool Upgrades Available)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY May 25th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

Myths and fairytales are as fundamental to human existence as communication itself. We grow up hearing these stories, being formed by them, and often rebelling against them.

One of the hottest trends in publishing right now is bringing these stories back and giving them new life with creative interpretations and retellings.

Done right, a retelling can capture the public imagination, give us new insights into our society and ourselves, and sweep us away to a time and place where everything, including justice and happy endings, is possible. Get your spot today! HERE.

The Yarn Behind the Book: Backstory

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $55.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Friday, June 1, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

Behind every good book is an entire story that happens before the reader ever opens to page one. This is the backstory, and done right, it is what sets the stage, provides clues and cues, and rescues you from writer’s block.

A good backstory will help with logic and consistency in the plot, developing complex motivations for characters, and sorting out exactly what needs to happen going forward as you either plot or pants your way to the end.

This class will cover the following topics – and much more:

  • The elements of a backstory;
  • How to take your current plot idea and work backwards into a backstory;
  • Integrating character profiles and the backstory;
  • How the backstory relates to the logline and synopsis;
  • Using the backstory to dig yourself out of corners and shake off writer’s block;
  • Why a backstory is crucial to writing a series.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

About the Instructor:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in the Boston area with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking, running, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

On Demand Training!

Ready for Book Beast Mode? I Live to Serve…Up Some TRAINING!

For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend:

ON DEMAND Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. 

Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .

The Art of Character is also now available for ON DEMAND.

And if you’re ready for BOOK BEAST MODE and like saving some cash, you can get BOTH Plot Boss and Art of Character in the…

Story Boss Bundle (ON DEMAND).

Almost FIVE HOURS with me, in your home…lecturing you. It’ll be FUN! 

I also hope you’ll pick up a copy of my debut novel The Devil’s Dance.

The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, Author Kristen Lamb, Kristen Lamb novel, Kristen Lamb mystery-thriller, Romi Lachlan

Amazon, authors, digital age authors, writing, self-publishing, how to sell more books, Kristen Lamb, how to write better books, story

Last time, I brought up a subject I never believed would warrant discussing—cockygate.  I wish this was the first time a writer did something epically misguided to gain advantage. Some drama to sell their ‘story.’ But, I’ve been around too long. Seen too much.

Yes, I was there for the BIG BANG (dot.com implosion). I also witnessed Web 2.0 shoot out of the dying Web 1.0’s ribcage then skitter up into the vents.

Where did it GO? What is it up to? What does it WANT?

Good Question

Amazon, authors, digital age authors, writing, self-publishing, how to sell more books, Kristen Lamb, how to write better books, story

As early as 2004, I projected the digital tsunami that was going to obliterate the world as we knew it.

Why is ‘Age of Aquarius’ suddenly stuck in my head?

Anyway, it began with Napster and Tower Records, then Kodak, blah blah and starting in 2006 I began blogging and predicting the next industry to fall…and the next…and even how and roughly when it would happen. All along I insisted publishing and writers needed to be prepared because we were also in its path.

Over the course my first years as a ‘social media/branding expert’ (an occupation widely regarded as a made-up job like ‘unicorn groomer’) I noted a trend.

Pretty much every year, new and evolved ‘bright idea fairies’ (BIFs) hatched with frightening regularity. This trend continues because shortcuts are tempting. Um…cockygate.

Enough said.

BIFs masquerade as a super cool idea, when in reality they’re total gimmicks that do more harm than good.

***Which is why I dedicated a year of research to write Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

Social platforms change all the time.

Know what never changes? People.

Just read Shakespeare, watch Dateline, or go look up your ex on FB. People don’t change. This is why I wrote Rise of the Machines to be evergreen.

Only now I may need to update because cockygate sucker-punched us all. I feel like Proctor & Gamble now having to warn teenagers not to eat Tide Pods *sighs*.

Story Matters

Amazon, authors, digital age authors, writing, self-publishing, how to sell more books, Kristen Lamb, how to write better books, story

Yes, really.

We writers are wise to remember a few fundamentals. Stories are for the reader. Story is our product. Readers are our customers who pay money for our product. Readers want a good…story. They really want a superlative story.

Far too many authors don’t need better marketing skills, they need better storytelling skills.

This is simple, though simple is rarely easy. Superior stories are more crucial than ever if we take a quick peek at our industry.

See, when Amazon scope-locked on publishing, they knew exactly how to dismantle the establishment. According to the ancient self-help inspirational guru Sun Tzu, there are only two forms of warfare—direct and oblique.

Amazon is all about the oblique.

Who wanted to go head-to-head with The Big Six? Like, be a real publisher who discovers and cultivates awesome books? How derivative *flips hair*.

Nope. Amazon was not about to face off with NYC where legacy publishing had over a century of dominance. Besides, too much work. Instead?

Get rid of gatekeepers. Open the market to anyone who wanted to string a bunch of sentences together and call it a story. In turn, they get to call themselves ‘published authors.’ Win-win!

Not all of it was bad.

Amazon was banking that excellent books had fallen through the traditional model cracks (very true). They also gambled that some authors not only had a good book, but also possessed sound business skills (also true). Then, there were all these hungry, innovative writers eager to be cut loose and try new ideas like the blog-to-book.

The Martian never would have happened under the old regime.

There were also plenty of traditionally published New York Times best-selling authors and USA Today best-selling authors with HUGE backlists…that NY mothballed. #OUCH

Paper was heavy and expensive and the big-box-bookstore only had so much shelf-space. This meant making royalties off only the most recent title (instead of compounded royalties off 10, 20 or 50 titles).

Amazon offered a place to get these already vetted stories back into reader hands.

The only major advantage traditional publishers ever had was distribution. Yet, in a world of 0s and 1s, this advantage disappeared.

Tough truth.

Amazon doesn’t invest in authors or books. They don’t make money off one book selling a million copies. It’s far easier to make money off a hundred thousand ‘writers’ selling ten books. And, Laws of Probability dictate that, out of that hundred thousand writers, a runaway hit will emerge and with that?

A DREAM.

Between mid-list defectors and undiscovered gems, Amazon has reinvented the American Dream for writers. They also reasonably wagered it would only take a few years before legacy publishing would no longer be the first choice for many emerging authors.

The lure of these success stories would be too much to resist.

Problem was, this meant the slush-pile landed square in the readers’ laps.

Story Solutions

Amazon, authors, digital age authors, writing, self-publishing, how to sell more books, Kristen Lamb, how to write better books, story

In this new business model we do have options. We can chase the next ad/promotion/algorithm/writing gimmick like a cat after a red dot. Or we can get back to basics, the ‘stuff’ that’s worked since the beginning of time.

Earlier I mentioned humans don’t change. If we fully grasp this, building a platform becomes far easier. So does writing.

Humans have longed for great stories since the HUGE stick and ‘ability to make fire’ was the most advanced tech available.

Sadly, in the digital age, too many writers rush, either out of newbie enthusiasm or veteran panic. Emerging authors often rush the learning curve (how to actually WRITE a good story). Veteran authors who know how to write, frequently cave to rushing the process.

Faster isn’t always better. It’s like microwaving a turkey. Takes only a fraction of the time, but who wants to eat THAT?

Tips for Better Stories

Ditch the Derivative

Readers want the same but different. Bad copies of stories that are ‘hot’ are simply bad copies. My challenge is for all of us to use that robust imagination for the powers of good. Amateurs retool stories. Artists reimagine them 😉 .

A Thousand Acres—King Lear on an Iowa farm.

Wicked—The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West—There’s always more than one point of view. Let’s hear from the ‘other’ side, shall we?

The Wife Between Us—Fantastic mind-bending story. It’s as if the famous play (movie) Gaslight and Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train had a baby. But namely, it’s Gaslight reimagined in the modern world.

There are way too many tired tropes so have fun. Can you change time, setting, perspective or characters and create something fresh and new, but rooted in pedigree? What about a new story that gives the ‘real’ scoop on an old one?

Jack the Ripper as a female, a virtuous wife betrayed. The killings are motivated by a woman scorned and shamed. Could happen 😛 .

Cinderella as a serial killer. Red Riding Hood as an Old West outlaw. The Little Mermaid as a vengeful stalker (Fatal Attraction) *wink wink*. ALL THE FUN!

Y’all get the gist and Cait has a class coming up that can teach y’all how to think in new and perverse…creative ways in her class Once Upon a Plot: Retelling Myths & Fairytales.

Leave the Low-Hanging Fruit

All stories need some amount of description. Yet, I’m challenging ALL OF US to try harder. I see all kinds of samples where the hero/heroine has emerald, jade, amethyst, sapphire, onyx, (pick any precious or semi-precious stone) eyes. Hair color is like a bad drop-down menu—raven, copper, spun gold, etc.

Her eyes were blue as the Western sky.

Never read that before *rolls eyes*.

To an extent we ALL do it. I’ve done it, too. So one judgy finger pointed at y’all and THREE back at me. Yet, here’s the thing.

We are wordsmiths, and wordsmiths should be able to write a better description than any random non-writer challenged to pen a description.

His eyes were like dazzling emeralds.

Wow. Bet that burned some brain cells to come up with.

Dig deeper. Sure, sometimes we want to keep it simple so we don’t wear out a reader being super clever all the time. On the other hand, can we do a better job than penning a description we might give to a police sketch artist?

He had a shaved head, scars, big nose and ears…

Be CREATIVE!

He had the face of a man who loved to pick fights, but wasn’t any good at fighting.

Just leaving that there 😉 .

Throw a Wrench in Everything

Stories are about problems. PERIOD. Three hundred pages of pretty sentences is not a novel. It’s three hundred pages of pretty sentences. Using a crap ton of fancy words only proves we know how to use a thesaurus…and maybe should be banned from owning one.

Description is not story.

Everyone getting along is not story…it’s a sedative.

All stories have ONE core problem that must be resolved. Until that happens? Welcome to hell. No one agrees and nothing comes easily and anything that can go wrong does…twice. The MC must solve the core story problem and the crucible is never curved.

No one respects someone who wins without working for it in life…or fiction 😉 .

***Scroll down to On Demand classes for hardcore storytelling training from MOI!

What Are Your Thoughts?

I love hearing from you!

Do you struggle being a sadist to your characters? Did you do like me and look at your descriptions and go, ‘Wow, I should totally try harder’ *face palm*?

Did I maybe get the brain percolating? Mine is.

I now want to write Hansel & Gretel in the 1920s as Bonnie & Clyde-style gangsters and candy is a metaphor for BOOZE and SEX….

*Cait slaps me hard*

OWWW! *rubs back of head*

Or not.

What do you WIN? For the month of MAY, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also NOW OFFERING MORE CLASSES PLUS ON DEMAND…

Retelling Myths & Fairytales

Instructor: USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds
Price: $65 USD Standard (Cool Upgrades Available)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY May 25th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

Myths and fairytales are as fundamental to human existence as communication itself. We grow up hearing these stories, being formed by them, and often rebelling against them.

One of the hottest trends in publishing right now is bringing these stories back and giving them new life with creative interpretations and retellings.

Done right, a retelling can capture the public imagination, give us new insights into our society and ourselves, and sweep us away to a time and place where everything, including justice and happy endings, is possible. Get your spot today! HERE.

The Yarn Behind the Book: Backstory

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $55.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Friday, June 1, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

Behind every good book is an entire story that happens before the reader ever opens to page one. This is the backstory, and done right, it is what sets the stage, provides clues and cues, and rescues you from writer’s block.

A good backstory will help with logic and consistency in the plot, developing complex motivations for characters, and sorting out exactly what needs to happen going forward as you either plot or pants your way to the end.

This class will cover the following topics – and much more:

  • The elements of a backstory;
  • How to take your current plot idea and work backwards into a backstory;
  • Integrating character profiles and the backstory;
  • How the backstory relates to the logline and synopsis;
  • Using the backstory to dig yourself out of corners and shake off writer’s block;
  • Why a backstory is crucial to writing a series.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

About the Instructor:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in the Boston area with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking, running, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

On Demand Training!

Ready for Book Beast Mode? I Live to Serve…Up Some TRAINING!

For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend:

ON DEMAND Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. 

Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .

The Art of Character is also now available for ON DEMAND.

And if you’re ready for BOOK BEAST MODE and like saving some cash, you can get BOTH Plot Boss and Art of Character in the…

Story Boss Bundle (ON DEMAND).

Almost FIVE HOURS with me, in your home…lecturing you. It’ll be FUN! 

I also hope you’ll pick up a copy of my debut novel The Devil’s Dance.

The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, Author Kristen Lamb, Kristen Lamb novel, Kristen Lamb mystery-thriller, Romi Lachlan

Faleena Hopkins, Cocky, Cockygate, trademark abuse, publishing, author branding, trademark trolling, amazon, RWA

Call me cocky for even weighing in on this issue (at your own peril). But, seriously, folks. It’s rare to run across something so epically wrong AND foolish and…ironically, cocky. As an author branding expert, I’d be remiss NOT to say something about Cockygate (though I seriously hate having to).

Cockygate.

Yes, folks, it’s a real thing. A subject—cocky—we’ll touch on today (with gloves).

I’ve dedicated over ten years, three branding books and close to thirteen hundred blogs to help my fellow authors. Why? Because this job is brutal. We take crap from countless vectors.

For instance, even though our culture spends the lion’s share of their disposable income (and free time) consuming entertainment…apparently creating this entertainment is not a ‘real job.’

*face palm*

Writers are often paid last and the least (if at all) even in legacy publishing…which is why we need agents. Regardless of pedigree, most writers write for love not money (though we universally agree money is AWESOME).

Why I’m Cocky Enough to Care

I didn’t set out to become a branding expert or blogger, but I tend to have a crusader personality. Which is why my coauthor mocks me and calls me a Griffendork. And I’m cool with this because I know what it feels like to have the world against you and feel (or even actually BE) all alone.

When we step out to become novelists, it’s normal to get pushback. When I announced I was leaving sales to become a writer, my family made the natural assumption I was joining a cult.

Then didn’t talk to me for two years.

Writers deal with a lot of BS, so I’ve spent YEARS stepping into protect other authors from said BS (especially the newbies). Like a fluffy middle-aged superhero, with yoga pants covered in cat fur.

Anyway…

When one adds up the BS from Goodreads trolls, regular trolls, sockpuppets, algorithm scams, piracy, plagiarism, and ‘reviewers’ who fail to appreciate there might be an ACTUAL HUMAN WITH FEELINGS on the other side of the review, you know what you have?

Enough stress to turn Tommy Chong into a cutter.

Then there’s the rampant (and unrepentant exploitation) from MEGA MEDIA BRANDS all using the ‘Exposure Dollar Ponzi Scam’ to rake in millions using creatives as free labor and yeah….

I’ve had a full dance card.

Writers are incredibly brave. They willingly endure an incredible amount of cruelty and sacrifice time and their own money to do what? To entertain. To ideally make some stranger’s day just a bit better. That’s a hell of a noble goal.

And this is precisely why I’m so rabidly protective.

A Caveat

In fact, I am so protective of my fellow authors, I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and stop this author, explain to her how branding really works so I might have saved her from herself. This gal wrote and published seventeen novellas in two years. That’s a hell of a work ethic and there’s a lot about that to be admired.

It’s just the next part that puts me in a weird position.

While I do possess a modicum of compassion for this singular author, her ill-conceived and poorly thought out actions have done untold damage to countless others. Damage that will take months to even fully realize.

And, FYI, for anyone who thinks I’m mean? Calling out a dirtbag move, mocking what deserves mocking, and using a$$hattery as a cautionary tale is not ‘trolling.’

Kind of like when those Olympic swimmers in Brazil claimed to have been robbed and held at gunpoint? Only for us to find out they were piss drunk (literally) and vandalizing a store? And that the ‘evil men with guns’ were not robbers, rather security guards and police?

When the public openly denounced this behavior?

Not trolling.

Anyone who threatens legal action to confiscate honestly earned royalties from innocent authors doesn’t get the victim card, any more than a drunk Olympian urinating all over a gas station then filing a false police report does.

What’s the Deal with Cocky?

Funny, I asked the same thing. In fairness, a lot of other bloggers have done a WAY better job explaining what’s come to be known as Cockygate (like Jami Gold’s Branding: The Right Way vs. The Wrong Way).

But I’ll give the Spark Notes of the scandal we never thought we’d see, let alone be discussing.

In a nutshell, indie author Faleena Hopkins trademarked the word ‘cocky.’ Yes, a word commonly used since the 16th century. A word very commonly used in the romance genre.

This might not have been a big deal, except the author then used her newfound power to threaten and bully fellow authors who’d used ‘Cocky’ in their titles.

I WISH I Were Joking

To make this worse (if it could be worse) Ms. Hopkins took it upon herself to personally e-mail her competition with her ‘reasonable’ demands and spell out the legal consequences for those who failed to comply.

Let’s take Jamila Jasper, for instance…whose book The Cockiest Cowboy to Have Ever Cocked I just bought on a) principle and b) to show actual-money-spending-support for the wronged Jamila Jasper and c) to express my gratitude for her sharing THIS with my other new hero Jenny Trout ,whose post on this entire cock-up is sheer GENIUS…

Exhibit A:

How benevolent! Makes me all misty-eyed. Wait, no…not seeing mist. Seeing more like…red?

To threaten to sue, forcibly take another author’s hard-earned royalties and also make said target PAY for being screwed…then follow it with how seriously you take your victim’s hard work?

Just…wow.

What’s next? Car-jackers demanding gas-money in polite thank you cards? Hand-delivered by large ex-cons with tire-irons and a thing for breaking kneecaps?’

Legal Z…Doom

Ms. Hopkins isn’t the first person to NOT ‘get’ how the whole trademark thing works. We can pay and apply to own the trademark on pretty much any word. If you want to own the word ‘snollygoster’ because it’s a super fun word that should be used more often and this word makes you (okay, me) laugh every…single…freaking…time?

Knock yourself out. You just kind of can’t do anything with it other than maybe brag you own the word snollygoster.

If memory serves me from when I applied for a trademark, you fill out a bunch of forms, wait ninety days and if no entity, person, organization raises a fuss and files to contest? TM granted!

In fact, one might imagine the aforementioned attorney name-dropped in the threatening letter could be rather miffed with how this Cocky TM has played out (though this is total supposition on my part).

One can hire an attorney to TM a word. Since attorneys like money, they go, ‘Um, okay. Cocky? Sure you don’t want to own snollygoster?’

Then they file the paperwork and make their money. Done.

Or not.

Unwanted Weaponizing

Could be wrong, but I’m fairly sure this firm never anticipated anyone weaponizing the word ‘cocky.’ Or using their name and BRAND to do it. I have no way to know for sure. But logic dictates this firm didn’t consent to being the brute squad used to terrify honest hard-working writers into dismantling their livelihoods out of fear.

*makes weird ‘pondering’ face*

Never seen a law firm rufied.

Well, Cockygate is proving there is a first for everything.

Then since the Federal Trademark Office and Amazon have an act-first-then-sort-this-crap-out-later policy, they’ve also been rufied/weaponized. I can’t imagine the FTO or Amazon being very thrilled with being wielded to kill off competition for one author’s personal gain.

Oh to be a fly on the wall….

Trademark Trolling

But I OWN ‘COCKY’, and here is my TRADEMARK! 

Hmm, yeah owning the trademark for a word doesn’t mean as much as this author apparently hoped (mainly because there are no permanent legal teams in place defending every word in the dictionary against BS trademarking for profit).

See, if writers (or anyone else for that matter) could rampantly trademark common words then sue anyone who used the words they ‘owned’ and take their money by force? Publishing would pretty much implode.

Besides, if this sort of plan worked? Go big or go home! If making money by ‘owning’ words were a legit business plan, I’d totally TM all conjunctions…and y’all just lost ALL FUNCTION 😛 .

But I wouldn’t do that, namely because that would be a jerk move and also, one only has to war-game this out about three steps to see it wouldn’t ever work. To be certain though, I consulted MY attorney.

Hey, Mr. Eight, can I go TM all the conjunctions? Then sue anyone using compound sentences?

Faleena Hopkins, Cocky, Cockygate, trademark abuse, publishing, author branding, trademark trolling, amazon, RWA

Mr. Magic Eight Ball Esq. gives pretty amazing legal advice.

But It’s NO BIG DEAL

This author, instead of backing off and apologizing, keeps insisting this is no big deal. Yes, but it IS. It is a VERY, VERY BIG DEAL for all authors (which is why I’m talking about this).

As an author who’s self-published two out of five books, myself, I was astonished that someone who’s self-published seventeen titles would claim these changes are no big deal.

Just get a new cover *hair flip*. 

Seriously? Covers can run hundreds of dollars. The authors would need a cover for paperback AND e-book. Then you need whole new ISBNs (not cheap). You’d have to trash any inventory, swag, ads, promotions and pull and then pay to reproduce any audio books.

If this is a SERIES with ‘cocky’ the costs of Ms. Hopkin’s ‘minor’ changes just made ME want to cry…and I don’t even write romance.

And demanding these changes literally right before CONFERENCE SEASON?

*breathes in paper bag*

The ripple effect of Ms. Hopkins’ demands are way bigger than what little I just laid out. For the aerial view of the Cockygate devastation, go read Jenny Trout’s post for the full run-down of what Faleena keeps asserting is ‘no big deal.’

As a wise man once said,“You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”

She keeps insisting no authors are being harmed, because retitling only takes ONE day.

*bangs head on table*

You know what else takes one day? Tanking a brand. Where’s a Hot Tub Time Machine when you need one?

Community 

Part of why I’ve worked my tail off to create author communities is so we can support each other, give advice, and even act as designated drivers…only for dumb@$$ ideas. Instead of taking away car keys, we lovingly mock our friend’s stupid plan until this friend wizens up.

Which is why I don’t own a full-sized trebuchet.

My writer friends all know me. Which means they also know I’m highly unlikely to use that power for good.

Being part of a group of fellow authors who care has benefits. They’ll do anything short of break the law (or break the law without getting caught) to save us from evil bright idea fairies. Educated, loving groups could’ve explained how it’s simple to protect a brand…without nuking it from orbit.

Beyond the Social Media Mess

Anyone who uses the FTO and Amazon to kneecap competition, has more than social media backlash to contend with. Authors guilty of nothing more than using an extremely common word in their romance titles are now embroiled in a legal nightmare, some possibly facing financial ruin.

Yep, that’s gonna come back to bite.

This ‘Cocky’ plan also has awoken RWA to take legal action and protect innocents caught in the cocky cross-fire. I could almost hear the collective voices of romance authors crying, Release the Kraken!

*backs away slowly*

Making a Cocky Contribution

I find it vastly amusing that Switzerland has spent roughly thirty years and $6.5 billon for what? To build the Large Hadron Collider. The goal of the LHC? Possibly create a small black hole.

Just a teensy singularity.

CERN has long been searching for ‘The God Particle.’ They also longed to be the first to create a spot of infinite density here…on Earth. In a bizarre twist, more than a few misguided authors have already done this. One can look HERE, HERE, and DEFINITELY HERE.

Multiple black holes.

***No Hadron Collider required.

Granted, these authors didn’t create ‘The God Particle,’ only the slightly-less-sexy-and-yet-far-more-perplexing ‘I Think I’m God Particle.’ The bugger of all this, was how preventable all these incidents were.

Count the Cost

It really pains me this is even a discussion, but is what it is. I know, some discussions we never thought we’d need, like why teenagers shouldn’t eat Tide Pods.

SMH.

Trust me, I was hesitant to even weigh in on this issue but crucial conversations are called crucial for a reason. Not all writers have been around since AoL was cool, and may be unaware that, in the social media age, branding has evolved. Sometimes it can feel like juggling nitroglycerine.

Or maybe just this post feels like that.

Suffice to say, there are a lot of ‘things’ we writers CAN do, just it’s wise to stop and ask if we should. Better still, ask other friends who are unafraid to lovingly call us an idiot. Writers, overall, are some of the most helpful, selfless, and supportive friends we can make.

Which might explain why we can go a tad psycho when one of our own crosses what should be an obvious LINE. You know, like setting a legal precedent that could collapse our entire industry faster than Kanye West’s fashion line.

My heart goes out to authors impacted by this…this….I don’t even know what to call it. If there’s any way I can help, I’d be happy to do what I can.

For those romance authors who’ve been cocky-blocked? We are on your side and rooting for you. You shall prevail!

What Are Your Thoughts? 

Other than most common thoughts like, ‘What the hell just happened?’ ‘Is this for real?’ ‘Can people DO this?’ Though, you know? Feel free.

I do love hearing from you because it’s how I learn and grow as well.

Meanwhile, I’m going to go do something productive, like work on my comedic screenplay about a struggling male exotic dancer who ‘loses his shirt’ and determines to win back his fortunes by becoming a professional boxer.

And, of course, it’s called…COCKY.